The Least Dependable Cars in America

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9. Mazda
> Problems per 100 vehicles: 163
> Initial quality score: 4/5
> 2011 sales: 250,426
> 2011 market share: 2%
> Customer satisfaction score: well below average
> Flagship model: CX-9

Mazda is an example of a car company that caters to the low end of the market with inexpensive cars and light trucks. The Mazda brand never gained the traction that the Toyota, Nissan and Honda (NYSE: HMC) did 40 years ago. Those brands have diversified into mid-market and luxury cars. But Mazda can claim some progress of late. Consumer Reports gave some of its models good reviews in its 2011 evaluation of cars and light truck sold in the U.S. However, some of the brand’s top-selling nameplates, including the MAZDA3, MAZDA5, and CX-9 received poor initial quality and dependability scores.

8. Suzuki
> Problems per 100 vehicles: 167
> Initial quality score: 2/5
> 2011 sales: 26,619
> 2011 market share: less than 1%
> Customer satisfaction score: NA
> Flagship model: SX4

Suzuki does not sell many cars in America, perhaps because it competes with more visible brands such as Kia and Volkwagen, which have cheap models. Suzuki is better known for its motorcycles and marine engines than for its cars, at least in the U.S. Few car companies that are part of big auto manufacturers have less than 30,000 sales a year in America — unless the cars are Bentleys or Maseratis. The SX4 received extremely low dependability scores from JD Power.

7. Kia
> Problems per 100 vehicles: 169
> Initial quality score: 3/5
> 2011 sales: 489,452
> 2011 market share: 4%
> Customer satisfaction score: below average
> Flagship model: Optima

Kia’s sales have grown as the low-priced South Korean cars have taken the place that the Japanese cars held from the 1970s to the 1990s. They are affordable for almost anyone who has the means to buy a new car. However, a low price may not buy high quality. Despite gains in market share and total sales, Kia ranks below average in the JD Power and ASCI measurements. The Optima, Kia’s top-selling car last year, received poor reliability scores.

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6. Volkswagen
> Problems per 100 vehicles: 169
> Initial quality score: 2/5
> 2011 sales: 324,400
> 2011 market share: 3%
> Customer satisfaction score: above average
> Flagship model: Jetta

Volkswagen, now the second largest car company in the world, has battled to gain market share in the U.S. for years. America is the world’s biggest car and light truck market after China, but VW has less than 3% of the market. The German car company has done well in its home base of Europe, and is a leader in the world’s largest market — China. The appeal of the VW is lost on Americans, if market share is any indication. The 2009 Volkswagen Jetta, one of the brand’s top-selling nameplates, received very poor dependability scores from JD Power.